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The Highlanders of Scotland
Part II -
Chapter V

The Gallgael – (continued)


THE district of Atholl unquestionably formed, from the very earliest period, one of the principal possessions of the powerful and extensive tribr of the Gallgael; but it possesses peculiar claims to our attention from the fact, that it is ther earliest district in Scotland which is mentioned in history, and that it has, from a remote period, preserved its name and its boundaries unaltered. Its principal interest, however, arises from the strong presumption which exists, that the family which gave a long line of kings to the Scottish throne, from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, took their origin from this district, to which they can be traced before the marriage of their ancestor with the daughter of Malcolm II. raised them to the throne of Scotland. When Thorfinn, the earl of Orkney, conquered the North of Scotland, the only part of the territory of the Northern Picts which remained unsubjected to his power was the district of Atholl and part of Argyll. The king of the Gallgael was slain in the unsuccessful attempt to preserve the Isles, and the king of the Scots, with the whole of his nobility, had fallen in the short but bloody campaign which laid the North of Scotland under the Norwegian earl.

      Had any of the Scottish nobility remained, of sufficient power to offer the least resistance to the progress of the Norwegians, there can be little doubt that he would naturally have been placed on the throne; but in the disastrous condition to which the Scots were reduced, they had recourse to Duncan, the son of Crinan, abbot of Dunkeld, by the daughter of Malcolm, the last Scottish king. Duncan, after a reign of six years, was slain in an attempt to recover the northern districts from the Norwegians; and his sons were driven out by Macbeth, who thus added the South of Scotland, for the time, to the Norwegian conquest.

      The circumstances attending the establishment of the race of Crinan again on the throne are well known; but there is no fact which so completely establishes the entire overthrow of the Scots, and that the country wrested by Malcolm Kenmore from the Norwegians, had been completely divested of its nobility, than this, that Malcolm’s family were no sooner in possession of the crown, than they divided the Lowlands of Scotland into earldoms, according to the Saxon polity, which were all of them granted to different members of the royal family. The districts included in Thorfinn’s original conquest, we know reverted to the descendants of the original proprietors, but the earldoms into which the rest of the country was divided, can all be traced originally in the possession of Malcolm Kenmore.

      These earldoms, however, consisted of exactly the country actually inhabited by the Scots, and the earldom of Atholl possessed by the Northern PICTS. The establishment of Malcolm Kenmore, as king of Scotland, would, in the circumstances, place the Scottish districts at his disposal, and there is therefore the strongest presumption that Atholl was the original possession of his race before they ascended the throne. This is confirmed by the circumstance that when the descendants of Duncan, the eldest son of Malcolm Kenmore, were excluded from the crown by his younger sons, they succeeded, nevertheless, as we shall afterwards see, to the earldom of Atholl, and still more by the designation which our earlier historians gave to Crinan, the founder of this royal race. Fordun, in mentioning the marriage of Crinan, abbot of Dunkeld, with Beatrice, daughter of Malcolm II., the issue of which marriage was Duncan, who succeeded his maternal grandfather, and was murdered by Macbeth, styles Crinan “Abthanus de Dul ac seneschallus insularum.” With regard to the first of these two titles, Pinkerton remarks, “To support this nonsense, Fordun brings more nonsense, and tells us abba is father, and thana is respondence vel numerans, and the abthane was a chamberlain, who managed the king’s rent and treasury. But who,” adds Pinkerton, “ever heard of an abthane? and who knows not that Dull, a village, could not give a title which was, in that age, territorial?” and in this remark he has been followed by all subsequent historians.

      The following notices will shew, not only that there was such a title as abthane in Scotland, but even that that very title of Abthane of Dull existed to a late period, and consequently that Pinkerton, in denying its existence, only betrays his gross ignorance, and want of real research into the minuter parts of Scottish history: –

      Charter. – William the Lyon to the Bishop of Dunkeld, of terra de Abbethayne de Kilmichael, in Strathardolf. [Chartulary of Dunfermline.]

      Charter. – Hugh, Bishop of Dunkeld, of reditu viginti solidorum qui nos et clericos nostros contingit de Abthania de Dull. [Chartulary of St. Andrews.]

      Charter. – William the Lion to Gilbert, Earl of Stratherne, of Madderty, and confirmation by Galfridus, Bishop of Dunkeld, of the said grant to the church of Madderty, et super terra qui Abthen de Madderdyn dicitur et super quieta clamatione de Can et Conneck qui clerici Dunkelden antiquitus ab eadem Abthen perceperunt. [Chartulary of Inchaffray.]

      Charter by David II. to John Drummond, of the office of Baillierie, of the Abthain of dull, in Athol [Robertson’s Index.] and

      Charter by the same king to Donald Macnayre, terre de Ester Fossache, in Abthania de Dull, in vic de Perth. [Ibid.]

      These notices establish the existence of Abthanes and Abthainries in Scotland, and also of the particular Abthainry of Dull in Atholl. As it is very plain, however, that Fordun neither knew what it meant, nor of the existence of the Abthanrie of Dull, independent of Crinan, it appears evident that he must have drawn his information from some authentic document, for it is impossible to suppose that he would invent a title which he could not explain, or if he had been aware of the actual existence of the Abthainrie of Dull in after times, that he would have given the absurd explanation which he did. Crinan is the first person who can be traced of that race which gave so many kings to Scotland from Duncan to Alexander III.; their origin is lost in obscurity, and if, as we conclude, the titles given to Crinan by Fordun are drawn from an authentic source, it becomes a matter of great interest and importance to trace the origin and signification of the title of Abthane generally, and of that of Abthane of Dull in particular.

      The title of Abthane is peculiar to Scotland, and does not appear to have existed in any other country. It also appears to have been of but very rare occurrence even in Scotland, for I have been able to trace only three Abthainries in Scotland – viz., those of Dull, Kilmichael, and Madderty; the two former in Atholl, and the latter in Stratherne. From this it is plain that it could not have been always a peculiar and distinctive title but must merely be a modification of the title of Thane, produced by peculiar circumstances. The name shews that it must in its nature have been strictly analogous to the Thane, and for the same reason it must have taken its origin subsequent to the introduction of Thanes into Scotland. It would be needless here to controvert the idea formerly so prevalent in Scotland, that the Thanes were the ancient governors of the provinces, for it is now universally admitted that the Scottish Thane was the same title with the Saxon Thegn, or Thane, in England, and that it was introduced with the Saxon polity into Scotland; but it will be necessary to advert to an erroneous opinion first started by Chalmers in his Caledonia, and since adopted by many, that the Thane was merely a land steward or bailiff, and that the Abthane was just the abbot’s steward, in the same was as the king’s thane was the king’s steward. With regard to the Abthane this is impossible, when we consider that although there were many abbots in Scotland who must have had their land stewards, yet there are but three instances of the title of Abthane connected with land in Scotland. His idea of the nature of the Thane is equally erroneous, for if the Scottish Thane was introduced by the Saxons, as Chalmers has succeeded in establishing, the characters of the offices must be the same; and nothing is clearer than that the Saxon Thane was not a land steward, but the actual proprietor of a certain extent of land held directly of the crown, and that it was the title of a Saxon land proprietor exactly equivalent to the Norman baron. Of course, judging by analogy, the Thanes and Abthanes of Scotland must have been also land proprietors, In order to ascertain the period in which they were introduced into Scotland, it will be necessary to advert shortly to the events in Scottish history which caused the introduction of Saxon polity. It is well known that Duncan, the son of Crinan, was killed by Macbeth, and that his son Malcolm fled to England for protection; and it is now equally clear that Macbeth was not the usurper he is generally considered, but that he claimed the throne under the Celtic law of succession, and that he was supported throughout by the Celtic inhabitants of the country, who inhabited all to the north of the Firths of Forth and Clyde, Lothian being possessed by the Angli. Malcolm Canmore was placed upon the throne by an English army. On his death, however, his brother Donald succeeded in obtaining possession of the crown, to the prejudice of Malcolm’s sons; and as he claimed the throne on the Celtic law that brothers succeeded before sons, he was supported by the Celtic inhabitants, and his party succeeded in expelling the English whom Malcolm had introduced. Donald was expelled by an English army composed principally of Normans, who placed Duncan, Malcolm’s eldest son, generally considered a bastard, on the throne, but finding he could not retain possession of it without the concurrence of the Celtic party, Duncan was forced to dismiss the English once more – a measure which did not avail him, for he was slain by his uncle, Donald Bane, and the expulsion of the English completed. Edgar, his brother, now made the third attempt to introduce the English, and succeeded, but he was in a very different situation from his father and his brother: they had been placed on the throne by an English army composed principally of Normans, who left them when they had succeeded in their immediate object, but Edgar was, through his mother, the heir of the Saxon monarchy and the legitimate sovereign of all the Saxons, a part of whom possessed the south of Scotland. This is a fact which has not been attended to in Scottish history, but it is a most important one; and it is certain that Edgar entered Scotland at the head of a purely Saxon army, and that during his reign and that of his successor, Alexander I., the constitution of Scotland was purely Saxon. The Norman barons and Norman institutions were not introduced till the accession of David I., who had previously been to all intents and purposes a Norman baron, and possessed through his wife an extensive Norman barony. Previous to his accession in 1124 there is not a trace of Normanism, if I may be allowed the expression, in Scotland, and we find no other titles of honour than just the two denominations of Saxon landholders, the eorl or earl, and the Thegn or Thane. it is consequently during these two reigns, or between the years 1098 and 1124, that we must look for the origin of Abthanes.

      We have already remarked, that Abthane was strictly analogous to Thane, and consequently implies a Saxon landed proprietor; and the name shews that Abthanus and Abthania are the same words with Thanus and Thanagum, with the addition of the prefix Ab. It follows, therefore, that that prefix must express some characteristic of an ordinary Thanus; in other words, that the Abthanus was a landed proprietor, with an additional character expressed by the syllable Ab. The syllable, however, is manifestly derived from Abbas, an Abbot; and here we are at once supported by the analogous case of the German Abbacomites. Du Cange defines them to be “Abbates qui simul erant comites,” and refers to the similar term of Abba milites, implying abbots who held lands of a subject superior; there can, therefore, be little doubt, judging by analogy, that Abthanus was just Abbas qui simul erat Thanus, or an abbot who possessed a Thanedom; and as Thanedoms were certainly hereditary in Scotland, the name once applied to the lands would always remain. Such being manifestly the origin of Abthanedoms generally, we shall now be better enabled to ascertain the origin of the three Abthanedoms of Dull, Kilmichael, and Madderty. From what has been said, it is plain that the Abthaneries were just Thanedoms held of the crown by an abbot, and that they must have been so created between 1098 and 1124. It is, however, a remarkable circumstance, that these three Abthanedoms were in two essential respects in the very same situation, for, first, as appears from the charters previously quoted, they were at the earliest period at which we can trace them in the crown; 2dly, that the monks of Dunkeld had ancient rights connected with all of them. From the previous arguments regarding Abthanes, these facts can be accounted for in one way only. They must, in the first place, have been all created during the reign of Edgar or Alexander I.; in the second place, the rights possessed by the monks of Dunkeld, to the exclusion of their bishop, proves that the abbas who possessed them all must have been the Culdee abbot of Dunkeld, who was only superseded by the bishop in the reign of David I.; and thirdly, as we find them all in the crown at such an early period, the king of Scotland must have been that abbot’s heir. Now, it is a very remarkable circumstance that these three facts are actually true of the abbot of Dunkeld during the reign of Edgar, for he was Ethelred, Edgar’s youngest brother, and he died without issue, so that the king of Scotland was in reality his heir. As the arguments regarding the necessary origin of these three Abthanedoms are thus so remarkably supported by the fact that there did exist at the time a person in whom these requisites are to be found, a fact otherwise so very unlikely to occur, we are warranted in concluding that this was their real origin, and that Ethelred, the abbot of Dunkeld, must have received from his brother Edgar three Thanedoms, which, in consequence, received the peculiar appellation of Abthanedoms, and which, upon his death, fell to the crown. It would also appear that as he was the only abbot of royal blood to whom such a munificent gift would be appropriate, so these were the only Abthanedoms in Scotland. This will likewise account for the appellation given by Fordun to Crinan. At that period there was certainly no such title in Scotland, but it is equally certain that there were no charters, and although Crinan had not the name, he may have been in fact the same thing. He was certainly abbot of Dunkeld, and he may have likewise possessed that extensive territory which, from the same circumstance, was afterwards called the Abthanedom of Dull. Fordun certainly inspected the records of Dunkeld, and the circumstance can only be explained by supposing that Fordun may have there seen the deed granting the Abthanedom of Dull to Ethelred, a bot of Dunkeld, which would naturally state that it had been possessed by his proavus crinan, and from which Fordun would conclude that as Crinan possessed the thing, he was also know by the name of Abthanus de Dull. From this, therefore, we learn the very singular fact that that race which gave a long line of Kings to Scotland, were originally lords of that district in Atholl, lying between Strathtay and Rannoch, which was afterwards termed the Abthania de Dull.

      Besides the Abthanrie of Dull we find that in the reign of Alexander I., nearly the whole of the present district of Braedalbane was in the crown, and these facts leave little room to doubt that the royal family were originally, before their accession to the throne, lords of the greater part of Atholl. Duncan, however, succeeded to the throne in 1034, and at that period the whole of Atholl was under the dominion of the Gallgael. Of this race, then, the descendants of Crinan must unquestionably be, and this is singularly corroborative of the title of Senneschallus insularum, likewise given to Crinan by Fordun, and which must have reached Fordun from the same source with that of Abthanus de Dull, and is consequently equally authentic. The exact connexion of Crinan with the family of the Gallgael kings, it would of course be difficult to point out, but it may not be improper to mention that there exist a very old tradition to which other circumstances lead me to attach considerable credit, viz., that Crinan was the son of Kenneth, Thane of the Isles, Ancient History of the Drummonds.] and if this be true, he would thus be the brother of Suibne, the last regulus of the Gallgael, and by the operation of the Gallic law of tanistry, Duncan might, during his life, have been at the head of this numerous and powerful tribe.

      By Edgar, the whole of Atholl, with the exception of Braedalbane, was erected into an earldom and bestowed upon Madach, the son of his father’s brother, [Orkneyinga Saga.] and on his death, towards the end of the reign of David Il., it was obtained by Malcolm, the son of Duncan, the eldest son of Malcolm Kenmore, [That Malcolm was the son of Duncan was proved by a charter in the Chartulary of Dunfermline. In that charter Malcolm implies that he was descended of more than one king buried at Dunfermline, which is only possible on this supposition.] either because the exclusion of that family from the throne could not deprive them of the original property of the family, to which they were entitled to succeed, or as a compensation for the loss of the crown. The earldom was enjoyed in succession by his son Malcolm, and his grandson Henry, and of the death of the latter, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, his granddaughters, by his eldest son, who predeceased him, carried the earldom into the families of Galloway and Hastings, from whom it latterly came to the family of De Strathboggie. [The peerage writers have been more than usually inaccurate in their account of the earldom of Atholl. From its origin down to the fourteenth century there is scarcely a single step in the genealogy which is correctly given in the peerage.] When the Celtic earls of Atholl thus became extinct, and in consequence the subordinate clans assumed independence, we find the principal part of Atholl in the possession of the clan Donnachie or Robertsons.

Clan Donnachie.

      The tradition which has hitherto been received of this clan, indicates, that they are a branch of the clan Donald, and that Duncan Reamhar, the first of the Robertsons of Struan, was a son of Angus Mor, lord of the Isles. Unfortunately, the Robertsons are not one of the clans noticed in the manuscript of 1450; but nevertheless, that manuscript affords a strong presumption that this tradition is unfounded, – for although it details all the branches of the Macdonalds with great minuteness and accuracy, and especially the descendants of the sons of Angus Mor, it does not include the Robertsons among them, and this presumption will appear the stronger when we consider not only the great extent of territory which this Duncan, as we shall afterwards see, possessed in the district of Atholl, but that the arms of the two families are quite different, and that they do not appear ever to have had any connection, as a clan, with the Macdonalds. There is also another fact which renders it impossible that this Duncan could have been the son of Angus of the Isles, and which consequently throws additional doubt upon the tradition, viz., that in several charters Duncan is designated “filius Andreae de Atholia,” [Robertson’s Index.] and this designation “de Atholia” continued in the family for several generations afterwards.

      The real descent of the family is indicated by their designation, which was uniformly and exclusively de Atholia. It is scarcely possible to conceive, that the mere fact of a stranger possessing a considerable extent of territory in the earldom, should entitle him to use such a designation. Atholia was the name of a comitatus, and after the accession of David I. the Comitatus was as purely a Norman barony as any baronia or dominium in the country. It will not be denied that the name of the barony was exclusively used by its possessors and their descendants, and that the possession of a territorial name of barony as surely marks out a descent from some of the ancient barons, as if every step of the genealogy could be proved; and if we turn to the other earldoms in Scotland, we find it to be invariably the case, that those families whose peculiar designation is the name of the earldom, are the male descendants of the ancient earls. Thus the Northern families of “De Ross” can all be traced to the earls of that district, and the case is the same with Sutherland, Mar, Angus, Strathern, Fife, Menteith, and Lenox. The only apparent exception to the rule is in the case of the earldom of Moray, and in that the origin of the family of De Moravia is altogether unknown, so that the probability is equally great that that family is descended from the former earls of Moray, as that they were foreigners. Further, although many families have at different times obtained extensive territories in several of the earldoms, even greater in proportion that those of the Robertsons, yet not a single instance can be found of any of these families assuming a designation from the earldom in which their territories were situated nor is it possible to produce a single family not descended from the ancient earls who bear the name of the earldom. The designation De Atholia thus distinctly indicates a descent from the ancient earls of Atholl, but the history of their lands points to the same result. The possessions of Duncan de Atholia, who is considered the first of the Robertsons of Struan, consisted, so far as can be ascertained, of three classes. 1st. Those lands, afterwards erected into the barony of Struan, of which Glenerochie formed the principal part, and which were strictly a male fief. 2d. The barony of Disher and Toyer, comprehending the greater part of the present district of Braedalbane. 3d. Adulia, or Dullmagarth. By examining the ancient chartularies, it appears that these last lands were formerly in the possession of the ancient earls of Atholl, for Malcolm, the third earl, grants the “Ecclesia de Dull to St. Andrews.” [Chartulary of St. Andrews.] and this charter was afterwards confirmed by his son, Henry, the last earl.

      Now, it will be observed as a remarkable fact, that although the Lowland families who succeeded Henry in the earldom of Atholl, obtained possession of a considerable portion of the earldom by that succession, yet we do not find them in possession of Dull, which, on the contrary, belongs to this family, De Atholia. It is plain that this family could not have acquired these lands by force in the face of the powerful barons who successively obtained the earldom, and as we can only account for its not forming a part of the succession of these earls by supposing Dull to have been a male fief, it follows, of necessity, that the family of De Atholia must have been the heirs male of the family of Atholl.

      But the other possessions point still more clearly to the real descent of the family; for there exists in the chartulary of Cupar a charter by Coningus filius Henrici Comitis Atholie to the Abbey of Cupar, from which it appears that he was proprietor of Glenerochie; and this charter is confirmed by Eugenius filius Coningi filii Henrici Comitis Atholie, likewise proprietor of Glenerochie. Glenerochie is the same as Strowan, and in included in the charter erecting the possessions of the family into the barony of Strowan; and as Strowan was at all time a male fief, it is scarcely possible to doubt the descent of Duncan De Atholia from Ewen the son of Conan the son of Henry, earl of Atholl. There is a charter, however, which still more clearly proves it. It appears from the chartulary of Inchaffray, that Ewen, the son of Conan, had married Maria, one of the two daughters and co-heiresses of Duncan, the son of Convalt, a powerful baron in Stratherne. Duncan’s possessions consisted of Tullibardine and Finach in Stratherne, and of Lethindy in Gowrie; his eldest daughter, Muriel, married Malise, the seneschall of Stratherne, and their daughter, Ada, carried her mother’s inheritance, consisting of the half of Tullibardine, the lands of Buchanty, & c., being the half of Finach, and part of Lethindy, to William De Moravia, predecessor of the Murrays of Tullibardine. The other half of these baronies went to Ewen Mac Conan, who married Maria Duncan’s youngest daughter. Now, we find that in 1284, this Maria granted her half of Tullibardine to her niece, Ada, and William Moray, her spouse; and in 1443, we find Robert Duncanson, the undoubted ancestor of the Robertsons of Strowan, designating himself, Dominus de Fynach, and granting his lands of Finach, in Stratherne, consanguineo suo Davidi de Morava Domino de Tullibardine. The descent of the family from Ewen, the son of Conan, the second son of Henry, earl of Athol, the daughters of whose eldest son carried the earldom into Lowland families, is thus put beyond all doubt, and the Strowan Robertsons thus appear to be the male heirs of the old earls of Atholl. Ewen was succeeded by his son, Angus, as I find a charter to Angus filius Eugenii, of part of the barony of Lethendy. About fifty years after, this appears: Duncanus de Atholia filius Andreae de Atholia; and as Duncan is in tradition invariably styled “Mac Innes,” it is probable that this name was derived from this Angus, and that Andrewe de Atholia was his son.

      From this view of the earlier generations of the clan Donnachie, it would accordingly seem that upon the death of Henry, the last Celtic earl of Atholl, the district of Atholl was divided, and that the eastern part descended in the female line, by the feudal law, while the western and more inaccessible part was divided among the male descendants of the old earls, according to the Highland law of gavel.

      Andrew, of whom we know nothing, was succeeded by his son, Duncan, termed Reamhair, or Fat. Duncan acquired a great addition to his lands, including the south half of Rannach, by marriage with one of the daughters of a certain Callum Ruaidh, or Malcolm the Red, styled Leamnach, or De Lennox, whom tradition connects closely with the earls of Lennox. Malcolm appears to have been the same person with a Malcolm de Glendochart, who signs Ragman’s Roll in 1296, for it is said that the other daughter of Callum Ruaidh married Menzies, and it is certain that the Menzies possessed soon after Glendochart, and the north half of Rannoch. the descent of Malcolm from the earls of Lennox is probable, for we find John Glendochar witnessing a charter of Malduin, third earl of Lennox, in 1238. Duncan appears to have attained to very considerable power at that time, and to have been in possession of extensive territories in the wilder and more mountainous parts of th district of Atholl. From him the clan took their name of clan Donnachie, and he is still the hero of many traditions in that country. Of Robert de Atholia, his son and successor, we know little. By marriage with one of the daughters and co-heiresses of Sir John Sterling, of Glenesk, he obtained part of that property which his daughter Jean, however, carried into the family of Menzies of Fothergill, and by his second marriage with one of the co-heiresses of Fordell, he appears to have had four sons, Thomas, Duncan, Patrick, ancestor of the family of Lude, and Gibbon. During the life of Thomas we find the first appearance of the clan Donnachie, as a clan, when they played a distinguished part in the raid which the Highlanders made into Angus in 1392, in which Sir Walter Ogilvie, sheriff of Angus, and many other Lowland barons were slain. According to Winton –

                        “Thre chiftanys gret ware of thaim then
                        Thomas, Patrik, and Gibbone,
                        Duncansonys wes thare surnowne.”

      Thomas had an only daughter, Matilda, who carried part of the property, by marriage, to the family of Robertson of Straloch. The barony of Strowan came to Duncan, Thomas’s brother, who is mentioned in 1432, under the designation of “Duncanus de Atholia dominus de Ranagh,” and who was succeeded by his son Robert.

      Robert was a person of considerable power, and was held in great dread by the neighbouring Lowlanders, whom he was in the habit of continually harassing by his predatory incursions upon their possessions. Upon the murder of king James I. by the earl of Atholl and his accomplice, Graham, Robert was fortunate enough to arrest Graham, together with the master of Atholl, after the commission of the bloody deed; but any advantage which might have been gained by this act was thrown away by the reckless chief, who desired nothing more than to have the lands which remained to his family erected into a barony, which was granted to him along with the empty honour of being entitled to carry a man in chains upon his escutcheon, together with the motto of “Vertutis gloria merces.”

      The historian of the abbots of Dunkeld relates a curious anecdote connected with the death of this chief of the clan Donnachie. It seems that Robert had some dispute with Robert Forrester, of Torwood, regarding the lands of Little Dunkeld which the laird of Strowan claimed, but which had been feued by the bishop of Dunkeld to Torwood. Robert Reoch had consequently ravaged these lands, but upon one occasion, on his way to Perth, he was met near Auchtergaven by Torwood, and a conflict immediately took place between the parties, in which Robert was mortally wounded on the head. But the hardy chief, heedless of the consequences, and having bound up his head with a white cloth, is said to have ridden in that state to Perth, and there obtained from the king the new grant of his lands of Strowan, as a reward for the capture of the master of Atholl, and on his return to have expired in consequence of the wound which he had received.

      Notwithstanding that the remaining possessions of the family of Strowan had been erected into a barony, they were surrounded by far too many powerful neighbours to be able to retain them long. The greater part of the territories which once belonged to them had already found their way into the possession of the grasping barons in their neighbourhood, and being unable, in point of strength, to cope with them, every opportunity was taken still farther to reduce their already diminished possessions. Accordingly, some generations afterwards, the earl of Atholl, taking advantage of a wadset which he possessed over Strowan’s lands, which in those days was not an uncommon mode of acquiring property, succeeded in obtaining possession of nearly the half of the estates which remained to them; and notwithstanding the manifest injustice of the transaction, the Robertsons were never afterwards able to recover possession of their lands, or to obtain satisfaction against a nobleman of so much power and influence. But in spite of the diminished extent of their estates, the Robertsons have been able always to sustain a prominent station among the Highland clans, and to take an active share in every attempt which was made by the Gael of Scotland to replace the descendants of their ancient line of kings on the throne.

      The deeds of Alexander Robertson of Strowan, in the insurrection of 1715, as well as his eccentricity of character and poetic talents, have made the name of Strowan Robertson familiar to every one; and although their estates have been three times forfeited, and their name associated with every insurrection of the Gael in Scotland, yet a descendant of that ancient race still holds part of the original possessions of the clan, with the name of Robertson of Strowan.


Gules; three wolves’ heads erased, argent, armed, and langued, azure.


Fern or brakens.

Principal Seat.


Oldest Cadet.

Robertson of Lude.


Robertson of Strowan.


In 1715, 800. In 1745, 700.

Clan Pharlan.

      This clan is the only one, with the exception perhaps of the clan Donnachie, whose descent from the ancient earls of the district in which their possessions lay, can be proved by charter, and it can be shewn in the clearest manner, that their ancestor was Gilchrist, brother of Maldowen, the third earl of Lennox. There still exists a charter by Maldowen, earl of Lennox, to his brother Gilchrist “de terris de superiori Arrochar de Luss,” which lands continued in the possession of the clan until the death of the last chief, and had at all times been their principal seat. But while their descent from the earls of Lennox cannot be doubted, the origin of these earls is a matter of greater difficulty.

      The ancient earls of this district have not been fortunate enough to escape the grasp of the modern antiquaries, and they along of the native earls of Scotland have had a foreign origin assigned to them. the first of the earls of Lennox who appears on record is Aluin comes de Levenax, who is mentioned in the early part of the thirteenth century, and from this Aluin there can be no doubt whatever that the later earls of Lennox were descended. It unfortunately happens, however, that an Aluin Macarchill witnesses a number of charters in the reign of David I., and that in the previous century Ordericus Vitalis, a Saxon writer, had mentioned the flight of a Northumbrian nobleman named Archillus into Scotland, in consequence of the success of William the Conqueror, and although constant tradition asserts the earls of Lennox to be of native origin, this fact was sufficient for our Saxonizing antiquaries unanimously to instal Archillus of Northumberland as the founder of the ancient earls of Lennox. [The accurate Lord Hailes perceived the absurdity of this descent. See additional case under Lennox.] there are two facts, however, which materially interfere with this arrangement. First, several generations intervene between Archillus the Northumbrian, and Archill the father of Aluin. Secondly, as many generations intervene between Lluin Macarchill and Aluin first earl of Lennox, whose identity could only be effected by giving Aluin a long life of 120 years, and a family at the great age of eighty. Moreover, Aluin Macarchill on no occasion appears with the word Comes after his name, a fact of itself sufficient to shew that he had no connexion with any earldom. But, divesting this earldom of these puerile absurdities, its history is perfectly clear. During the life of David I., there is distinct authority for its being no earldom, but having formed a part of the principality of Cumbria. The next notice of Lennox is, that during the reign of Malcolm IV., and a part of that of William the Lion, their brother David, earl of Huntingdon, appears as earl of Lennox. And as Lennox was previously a part of the principality of his grandfather, there can be little doubt that it had been for the first time erected into an earldom in his favour. After his death the next appearance of the earls is contained in two charters: 1st. A charter relating to the church of Campsy, from “Alywn comes de Levenax, filius et heres Alwim comitis de Levenax, Maldoweni filio et herede nostro concedente.” 2d. A charter relating to the same subject by “Maldowen, filius et heres comitis Alwini junioris comites de Levenax et heredes Alwini senioris comitis de Levenax.” [Napier’s Partition of the Lennox.] And these charters shew that a certain Aluin had been created Earl of Lennox by William the Lion. Who Aluim was it is almost impossible to determine, and in the absence of all direct authority we are driven to tradition, in this instance a surer guide, for the tradition is supported by documentary evidence. an ancient history of the Drummonds asserts, that the earls of Lennox before they acquired that dignity, were hereditary seneschals of Stratherne, and baillies of the Abthainrie of Dull in Atholl. From the chartulary of Inchaffray, and others, we can trace the hereditary seneschals of Stratherne subsequent to the creation of Aluin as earl of Lennox, but not before; but it would appear that the later seneschals were a branch of an older family, who had possessed that office, and had been advanced to a higher dignity, for these hereditary office invariably went according to the strict rules of feudal succession, and consequently remained at all times in the head of the family, but if the possessor of them was advanced to a higher dignity, incompatible with their retention, and had possessed more than one such hereditary office, they were in general separated, and given to different branches of the family. Now we find, that of the later seneschals of Stratherne, one branch possessed the seneschalship, and another branch the office of baillie of the Abthainrie of Dull; there must therefore have been an older family in possession of both of these hereditary offices, who had been advanced to a higher dignity; and that that family was that of the earls of Lennox appears from the fact, that the later baillies of the Abthainrie of Dull possessed the lands of Finlarig, in the barony of Glendochart, and held them as vassals of Malcolm de Glendochart, who was, as we have seen, a cadet of the earls of Lennox. This connexion of the Lennox family with the crown lands in Braedalbane warrants us, in the absence of other evidence, in placing the family of Lennox under the title of Atholl, and this is confirmed by the fact, that the only possessions which we can trace in the family of the earls of Lennox, or their cadets out of that earldom, were all in Braedalbane, and that we find them in possession of these lands from the earliest period.

      Aluin was succeeded by his son, who bore the same name. This earl is very frequently mentioned in the chartularies of Lennox and Paisley, and he died before the year 1225, leaving nine sons. He was succeeded by his eldest son Maldowen, and among the other sons there appear to have been only two who left any male descendants. Aulay was founder of the family of Fassalane, who afterwards succeeded to the earldom by marriage with the heiress of the last earl, and Gilchrist obtained possession of the northern portion of the district of Lennox, and became progenitor of the clan Pharlan, or that of the Macfarlanes. Maldowen, the third earl, appears to have lived till about the year 1270, and he surrendered to the king the stronghold of Dumbarton, which had previously been the principal seat of the family. Of the fourth and fifth earls, both of whom bore the name of Malcolm, little is known; their names, together with those of the earlier earls, having only been perpetuated in consequence of their numerous donations of land to the various ecclesiastical establishments. The latter earl was killed at Halidon Hill, in 1333, and in his son Donald the make line of this branch of the family became extinct. Margaret, countess of Lennox, the only daughter of Donald, the sixth earl, married Walter de Fasselane, the heir male of the family, but any attempt to preserve the honours and power of the Lennox in the family proved unsuccessful, for Duncan, the eighth earl, their son, had no make issue, and his eldest daughter, Isabella, having married Sir Murdoch Stuart, the eldest son of the Regent, duke of Albany, he became involved along with his family in the ruin by which the house of Albany was overwhelmed. The honours and estates of Lennox were not, however, forfeited, but were possessed by Isabella, the widow of Duke Murdoch of Albany, under the title of countess of Lennox, until her death in 1460; and on her decease the earldom was claimed by three families – those of Napier of Merchiston, and Haldane of Gleneagles, the co-heirs of her second sister Margaret, and that of Stewart of Darnley, who represented the youngest sister Elizabeth. It would be unnecessary here to enter into any detail of the measures by which the Darnley family at length succeeded in overcoming all opposition, and acquiring the title of Earl of Lennoz; suffice it to say, that they had finally accomplished this object in 1488. The earldom of Lennox having thus fallen into the possession of a Norman family, the clans which had formerly been united under the rule of the old earls, now became separate and independent, and the principal of these was the clan Pharlane or Macfarlanes.

      The Macfarlanes were descended from Gilchrist, a younger brother of Malduin, earl of Lennox. This Gilchrist appears frequently as a witness to many of the Lennox charters, in which he is generally designated “frater Comitis.” Duncan, his son, also obtained a charter of his lands from the earl of Lennox, in which the earl ratifies and confirms “Donationem illam quam Malduinus avus meus comes de Lennox fecit Gilchristo fratri suo de terris superioris Arrochar de Luss.” Duncan appears in Ragman’s roll under the title “Duncan Mac Gilchrist de Sevenaghes.” From a grandson of Duncan, termed Bartholomew, or in Gaelic, Parlan, the clan took their surname of Macfarlane, and the connexion of Parlan with Duncan and Gilchrist is sufficiently proved by a charter to Malcolm Macfarlan, or Parlan’s son. This charter proceeds upon the resignation of his father, Bartholomew, son of Malduin, and confirms to Malcolm the lands of Arrochar and others, “Adeo libere plenarie quiete et honorifice in omnibus et per omnia sicut carta originalis facta per antecessores nostros antecessoribus dicti Malcolmi;” and from this Malcolm Macfarlane the whole clan are descended. To Malcolm succeeded his son Duncan, sixth laird of Macfarlane, who obtained from Duncan, earl of Lennox, a charter of the lands of Arrochar, in as ample manner as his predecessors held the same, which is dated at Inchmirin in the year 1395. This Duncan, laird of Macfarlane, was married to Christian Campbell, daughter of Sir Colin Campbell, of Lochow, as appears from a charter by Duncan, earl of Lennox, confirming a different charter granted by Duncan, laird of Macfarlane, in favour of Christian Campbell, daughter to Sir Colin Campbell, of Lochow, his wife, of the lands of Ceanlochlong, Inverloch, Glenluin, Portcable, & c. This charter is dated also in the year 1395. It was not long after the death of Duncan that the ancient line of the earls of Lennox became extinct, and there is strong reason for thinking that the Macfarlanes claimed the earldom as heirs male, and offered a strong resistance to the actual occupation of the earldom of Lennox by the feudal heirs. This resistance, however, suffered the usual fate of the assertion of their rights by the Celts; and the final establishment of the Stewarts as earls of Lennox appears to have been preceded by the dispersion and almost entire destruction of this clan. The family of the chief fell in the defence of what they conceived to be their rights, and a great part of the clan took refuge in distant parts of the kingdom. The ruin of the clan, however, was prevented by the opportune support given by one of its houses to the Darnley family; and its head, Andrew Macfarlane, having married the daughter of John Stewart, lord of Darnley and earl of Lennox, saved the rest of the clan from destruction, and was put in possession of the greater part of their former possessions; Andrew Macfarlane does not appear, however, to have had a natural title to the chiefship, other than that of being the only person in a condition to afford them protection for the clan refused him the title of chief; and his son, Sir John Macfarlane, in a charter to a William Macfarlane, designates himself honorabilis vir Johnnees Macfarlane, dominus ejusdem, miles Capitaneus de clan Pharlane, filius Andreae. After this, the Macfarlanes appear to have supported the Lowland earls of Lennox on all occasions, and to have followed their standard to the field. Little is consequently known of their history for some generations, and they appear to have continued to enjoy undisturbed possession of their ancient property under the powerful protection of these great barons.

      In the sixteenth century we find Duncan Macfarlane of that ilk frequently mentioned as a steady adherent of Mathew, earl of Lennox, He joined the earls of Lennox and Glencairn in the year 1544, with three hundred men of his own surname, and was present with them at the unfortunate battle of Glasgow Muir. Macfarlane also shared in the ruinous forfeiture which followed that event, but being afterwards restored through the intercession of his friends, he obtained a remission under the privy seal, which is still extant. The loss of this battle obliged the Earl of Lennox to retire to England, and having there married a niece of king Henry VIII., he soon after returned with some English forces, which he had obtained from that monarch. On this occasion the chief of Macfarlane did not dare to join the earl in person, but nevertheless his assistance was not wanting, for he sent his relative, Walter Macfarlane, of Tarbet, with four hundred men to join him. According to Holinshed, “In these exploytes the erle had with him Walter Macfarlane, of Tarbet, and seven score of men of the head of Lennox, that spake the Irishe and the English Scottish tongues, light footmen, well armed in shirtes of mayle, with bows and two-handed swords; and being joined with English archers and shotte, did much avaylable service in the streyghts, mareshes, and mountayne countrys.”

      This duncan is reported to have been slain, with a number of his clan, at the fatal battle of Pinkey, in 1547. His son andrew was not less active in the civil wars of the period, and took a very prominent part on the side of the Regent, exhibiting in this instance a contrast to almost all the other Highland chiefs. Holinshed again records the name of Macfarlane as being distinguished for bravery, for in describing the battle of Langside, he says, “In this battle the valliancie of ane Highland gentleman named Macfarlane stood the Regent’s part in great stead, for in the hottest brunte of the fight he came in with three hundred of his friends and countrymen, and so manfully gave in upon the flank of the queen;’s people, that he was a great cause of disordering of them.” the clan boast of having taken at this battle three of queen Mary’s standards, which they say were preserved for a long time in the family. The reward obtained by the Macfarlanes for their services upon this occasion, was of the usual substantial nature of the royal rewards of those services when merited. the Regent bestowed upon them the crest of a demi-savage proper, holding in his dexter hand a sheaf of arrows, and pointing with his sinister to an imperial crown or, with the motto, “This I’ll defend.”

      Walter Macfarlane, the grandson of this chief, seems to have been as sturdy an adherent as his grandfather had been an opponent to the royal party. He was twice besieged in his own house during Cromwell’s time, and his castle of Inveruglas burnt to the ground by the English, his losses on the one side being of a somewhat more substantial character than his grandfather’s rewards on the other had been.

      It is impossible to conclude this sketch of the history of the Macfarlanes without alluding to the eminent antiquary, Walter Macfarlane, of that ilk, who is as celebrated among historians as the indefatigable collector of the ancient records of the country, as his ancestors had been among the other Highland chiefs for their prowess in the field. the most extensive and valuable collections which his industry has been the means of preserving form the best monument to his memory, and as long as the existence of the ancient records of the country, or a knowledge of its ancient history, remain an object of interest to any Scotsman, the name of Macfarlane will be handed down as ne of its benefactors. The family itself, however, is now nearly extinct, after having held their original lands for a period of six hundred years.


Argent, a saltier engrailed, cantoned with four roses gules.


Cloudberry bush.

Principal Seat.

Arrochar, at the head of Lochlong.


After 1493 the family of Macfarlane of Macfarlane were captains of the clan. The representative of the old chief is unknown.

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